Harvesting Coffee in Zambia
Oliver Book is currently working with the peace corps and villagers in Zambia to build and maintain fish ponds for a food source. In his spare time, he has been experimenting with coffee.
What I have experienced so far is that it is a lot of work to get a good cup of coffee.
When I first arrived in Zambia, I did a sample test where I harvested just a few cherries and depulped them manually by hand (meaning that I just squeezed them until the seed popped out).
They are really slimy when they pop out and it's hard to hold onto them. Next I soaked them in water for a couple of days in order to remove the slick part of the seed, and then dried them in the sun for a couple days.
This hardens the outer coat of the seed so that you can remove it completely. I picked off the outer coat by hand just by cracking it like you do with full shell peanuts. This is when you get the green bean that you can roast. I now just have to roast those beans and see how they taste.
Manually picking is the best way to get quality beans because you can grade out the larger cherries from the smaller ones, insuring that you get a nice bean and fully red cherries.
However, even establishing the plants is a long process. It takes 2 years before you can get cherries on your tree and about 3 months before they are substantial enough to transplant into your fields. From there you have to make sure they are not damaged and are pruned well.
Soon we will commence on harvesting and drying again so that we can make coffee. I don't know if it will expand into to a large operation, but we can at least make a drink in the morning for the workers. They really like the Starlight Coffee I have been brewing up every morning. I hope that I can bring some coffee with me when I come home in September so that Jim can roast it and maybe even sell it in the shop. I've been pretty busy in the meantime with the work we are doing with the fish ponds, but hopefully here soon we can harvest a bunch of coffee to process. I'm interested to see what they use to depulp the cherries. I'll send some more info as I keep going.